Mary River Turtle
The Mary River turtle, Elusor macrurus, is an endangered short-necked turtle that inhabits the Mary River in South-East Queensland, Australia. In the 1960s and 1970s, they were popular as pets in Australia, with about 15,000 sent to shops every year during a ten-year period. They were originally known as the “Penny Turtle” or “Pet Shop Turtle”. Elusor is a monotypic genus representing a very old lineage of turtles that has all but disappeared from the evolutionary history of Australia.
The Mary River turtle is one of Australia’s largest turtles. Specimens in excess of 50 cm carapace length have been recorded. Hatch lings have a straight carapace length of 2–3.5 cm. Adult Mary River turtles have an elongated, streamlined carapace that can be plain in colour or intricately patterned. Overall colour can vary from rusty red to brown and almost black. The plastron varies from cream to pale pink. The skin coloration is similar to that of the shell and often has salmon pink present on the tail and limbs. The iris can be pale blue. Mary River turtles use bimodal respiration, and are therefore capable of absorbing oxygen via the cloaca whilst underwater. However, they do regularly come to the surface to breathe air in the usual way.